I love Kate Riordan's books. I think I've read them all except her short story, The Red Letter. This was the first one I reviewed published in January 2015 which makes it a retro review but she gets a blog post all to herself!!!
I wish I hadn’t read this book, I really do. Because if I hadn’t I would still have it here waiting for me to begin and become enveloped in its poignant tale of two intertwined lives.
I’m seldom an admirer of ‘book blurb’ and when I read that this story was for fans of Kate Atkinson and Kate Morton, both of whom I love, I was ready to deride the comparison. I had read The Birdcage, Kate Riordan’s first novel, a good historical novel but not up there with the Misses Atkinson and Morton. But, oh boy, how right the blurbers are!! More Morton than Atkinson but this just sucks you into the vortex of its narrative and you don't want to leave until you’ve unravelled the stories of these two women. The atmosphere created is palpable.
When Alice first arrives at Fiercombe Manor I was reminded of Daphne Du Maurier and Rebecca. It seemed, momentarily, that Mrs. Danvers was returned, incarnate, in the body of Mrs.Jelphs, appearing like a phantom at the window of Alice's room. But any comparisons slowly ebbed away as this writer claimed her own voice within this story.
All the characters are well developed and they all serve a purpose, there’s nothing wasted here, no words, no depictions are gratuitous but that doesn’t mean that this is an economic story. The descriptions are full, rich and accessible, a juxtaposition of control and flow.
The term of a pregnancy used to be refereed to as a confinement and this word is an apt, almost allegorical, description of the lives of both Alice and Elizabeth whose confinements go way beyond their pregnancies. And if we are going to extend this natal metaphor Alice must go full term to unravel the mystery and the history of Elizabeth Stanton.